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Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

MERCE CUNNINGHAM DANCE COMPANY EDINBURGH FESTIVAL THEATRE, EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND OCTOBER 30, 31, 2004

Merce Cunningham is not usually considered a tease, but how else to regard his latest venture? During the company's first-ever, Dance Umbrella-sponsored UK tour of six cities, Cunningham unveiled an aspect of his latest work--costumes in Oxford, music in Brighton and so on--one element at a time folded into the tailor-made collages of company repertoire known as Events.

All was finally revealed at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, where Views on Stage, a 25-minute, superficially serene piece for 13 dancers, received its official world premiere on a double bill with the lush, masterful BIPED. James Hall costumed both sexes in sleeveless, patterned vests above softly pleated white skirts, which convey both a folk element and echoes of Greek classicism. Cunningham's choreography maintains an almost tentative dynamic that dovetails well with the two-part John Cage score, a trail of isolated soundings from piano plink-plonk to reverberant gong, violin stab to brief, spine-chilling percussion.

This sparse aural context underlined the fleet formality of the cast's interactions. The strangely dignified onstage society seemed united by an underlying tension, its source unspecified. Even when they touched, each dancer seemed absorbed in a private ritual in which smoothly contemplative steps snapped awake via a sudden realignment of limbs, short-lived burst of speed, or directional change. Some of the partnering momentarily imparted a jazzy, jivey feel, but also a basic disconnection. In the midst of party-style moves, arms reached skyward worshipfully. The clarity and relative simplicity of the dancing was a tonic.

Equally startling was Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto's set, a weird, wreathlike, hanging installation of stretch fabric from which nodule-like sacs drop in Dali-esque fashion. A colleague compared it to chewed bubblegum. Beneath sits a single, floor-bound glob, like a scrubbed potato, or, depending on Josh Johnson's subtly hued lighting, a pink marshmallow. Does Neto's surreal setting gel with Hall's costumes? Not necessarily. The backbone or glue of the piece is the movement, all austere angularity and clinical beauty.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.merce.org.
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Author:Hutera, Donald
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Feb 1, 2005
Words:342
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